Rumblings on the Tumen

China has approved, yet again, an international development zone in the Tumen Delta.  Global Times reports (in English), as does CCTV.

The Chinese government has approved a border development zone in the Tumen River Delta to boost cross-border cooperation in the Northeast Asian region, the provincial government of Jilin announced on Monday.

The information office of the government said the pilot zone covering 73,000 square kilometers involved the cities of Changchun and Jilin as well as the Tumen River area.

Han Changbin, governor of Jilin, said the Changchun-Jilin-Tumen pilot zone was China’s first border development zone.

It is expected to push forward cross-border cooperation in the Tumen River Delta.

Jilin Provincial Government set out this status report in July 2009,   and now the economic zone is front-page news in the overseas People’s Daily.  The unveiling seemed to start on November 16 with this meeting convened by the Jilin Provincial Governor, Han Zhangfu [韩长赋]  whose name with a different spelling might mean “Sweaty Husband” instead of “Han Who Is Well Endowed,” which it does!

In the meantime, everyone in Yanji is supposed to study how to develop the economy, stupid.

Although a large part of the impetus here is local and provincial, in a small way, this economic zone might be being announced during Obama’s visit to China as a way to reinforce Chinese independence on the North Korean front.  On the other hand, while the DPRK has a lot to gain from participating in such a zone, their harassment of Chinese businessmen at Rajin and failed attempts in the past don’t bode well.

But based on my own observations, Chinese business in Hunchun and Fangchuang is far, far more oriented toward Russia than the DPRK.  And more South Korean and Japanese companies setting up shop on the lip of North Hamgyong province will very likely be a good thing.

Click here for some very revealing Google Earth imagery of Hunchun, and to see where this economic zone is nestled in between North Korea, China, and Russia.

Advertisement for North Korean-Russian Goods near Hunchun, Yanbian Autonomous Prefecture -- photo by Adam Cathcart
Border Crossing and North Korean customs house (with dirt road), North Hamgyong Province, DPRK -- photo by Adam Cathcart
Chinese technicians fixing North Korean trucks, Hunchun, Yanbian Automomous Prefecture, PRC -- photo by Adam Cathcart
Typical trilingual confusion in Hunchun -- photo by Adam Cathcart


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